Monday, March 24, 2008

Game 76; Pens vs. Isles

So let's try something new today since tonight's game is on Versus. Since I do not get that channel at my house, I will have to watch from a bar and won't be able to listen to Doc Emrick get super excited over everything. Today we will go to work on debunking the myth that "Marian Hossa chokes in the playoffs," as many lazy commentators love to point out.

First, let's look at Hossa's career playoff stats:

Year Team GP G A Pts +/- PIM Shots Sh%
2006-07 Atlanta 4 0 1 1 -6 6 10 0
2004-05 HC Dukla5 4 5 9 2 14 - -
2003-04 Ottawa 7 3 1 4 2 0 32 9.38
2002-03 Ottawa 18 5 11 16 -1 6 54 9.26
2001-02 Ottawa 12 4 6 10 2 2 42 9.52
2000-01 Ottawa 4 1 1 2 1 4 12 8.33
1999-00 Ottawa 6 0 0 0 -8 2 14 0
1998-99 Ottawa 4 0 2 2 1 4 11 0

Now, let's go through the years chronologically to examine these stats:

Hossa is 19 years old and in his first full season in the NHL. The Senators leading scorer had 4 points (Alfredsson, who is about six years older than Hossa, and Vaclav Prospal both had 4 points). This is 2 whole points more than Hossa, a 19 year old rookie. His stats are also in line with his .50 ppg pace of the regular season (15g-15a in 60 total games in the regular season).

Malkin last year had 4 points (0 goals, 4 assists, -1 +/-) in 5 playoff games. Malkin was in his rookie season and appeared tired by the end of the year. This is normal for rookies to tail off at the end of their rookie seasons.

Hossa is now 20 years old, and the Senators leading scorer that season was Radek Bonk (Shawn McEachren was also in their top five). This is the year Barrasso was their goalie in the playoffs when the Pens traded him for Tugnutt. Now when Radek Bonk is your leading scorer, do you really have high hopes in the playoffs? Granted, the 0 points and -8 in six games does not look good.

Not bad stats. 10 points in 12 games (.833 ppg), +2

16 points in 18 games (.889 ppg), -1

4 points in 7 games (.571 ppg), +2

In Slovakia (so take that for what it's worth), but he still had 9 points in 5 games (1.8 ppg).

1 point in 4 games, -6.
These stats are pretty horrific. However, keep in mind what team he was on. Atlanta relied almost entirely on two players (Hossa and Kovalchuk) to provide the bulk of their offense. This can succeed in the regular season (especially in a weak division), but once you get to the playoffs you're going to be facing teams that regularly play good defense. The Rangers did a good job of shutting down Atlanta's only two offensive threats (Kovalchuk: 1 goal, 1 assist, -1).

In addition to the Rangers shutting Atlanta down offensively, their goaltending was horribly mediocre as Hartley kept shifting between Kari Lehtonen (2007 playoff stats: 2 gp, 2 losses, 5.59 GAA, .849 save %) and Johan Hedberg (2007 playoff stats: 2 gp, 2 losses, 2.56 GAA, .928 save %; this is a lot better than I was expecting, actually). They got terrible goaltending from Lehtonen and decent goaltending from Hedberg. Atlanta's defense had no chance though. They traded away one of their few young prospects with potential (Coburn, now with the Flyers) for an overrated defenseman in hopes of a playoff run (Alexei Zhitnik, now occasionally a healthy scratch).

This is not the recipe for playoff success and Atlanta was consequently swept out of the playoffs. Before the series I (and many, many others) predicted the Rangers would sweep them. And because his whole team was overmatched and the Rangers only had to shutdown two players to eliminate all offensive threats, this makes Hossa someone who doesn't perform in the playoffs?


Now, let's compare some other players performances in the playoffs with the several good years Hossa had (arguably his only years with a good team in the playoffs):

Brad Richards (Conn Smythe year, 2003-2004): 23gp, 12g, 14assists, 1.13 ppg. Obviously this is better than Hossa's best year. Even still though, 1.13 ppg isn't overwhelmingly better than Hossa's best playoff mark of .889 ppg. Better? Definitely. Could Hossa have had a couple good games had he survived another round and had that many games played? We'll never know, but it is plausible. And Richards did win the Conn Smythe trophy, so clearly this was an excellent playoff performance.

Vincent Lecavalier (2003-2004, Cup winning year): 23gp, 9 goals, 7 assists, -2, .696 ppg.

Jarome Iginla (2003-2004): 26gp, 13 goals, 9 assists, +13, .846 ppg

And for an even better measure of comparison, let's look at Daniel Alfredsson's stats during the years he and Hossa played together during the playoffs in Ottawa:

Year Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM Shots Sh%
2003-04 Ottawa NHL 7 1 2 3 0 2 29 3.45
2002-03 Ottawa NHL 18 4 4 8 -3 12 41 9.76
2001-02 Ottawa NHL 12 7 6 13 6 4 55 12.73
2000-01 Ottawa NHL 4 1 0 1 0 2 13 7.69
1999-00 Ottawa NHL 6 1 3 4 0 2 11 9.09
1998-99 Ottawa NHL 4 1 2 3 -1 4 13 7.69

Now let's compare the points per game of the two players for those years:

Year Hossa Alfredsson
2003-04 0.571 0.429
2002-03 0.889 0.444
2001-02 0.833 1.080
2000-01 0.500 0.250
1999-00 0.000 0.667
1998-99 0.500 0.750

So Alfredsson was better for several years, especially at the beginning of Hossa's career. Again though, Alfredsson has about six years on Hossa. The last two years they were together in Ottawa, Hossa put up better numbers. He was significantly better in 2002-03. There is also a much higher sample size for that season vs. the following one (18 games vs. 7 games).

The past two years Alfredsson has been over a point-per-game player in the playoffs. Would Hossa be able to do likewise when surrounded by a good supporting cast? Hopefully we will learn the answer to that this season in the playoffs.

So is Hossa really a choker in the playoffs or did he gain that reputation through lazy journalism and an inability to look beyond the stats?



Vanessa Day said...

I was never a follower of Hossa before he came to the Pens, but I think a lot of those things you pointed out could be circumstantial.

All I know is that with the reliability of guys like Sid, Geno, and even TK, it could be a great mixture in the playoffs to come out on top even if someone makes mistakes.

Most teams only have one "good guy" who gets all of the attention, where as the Pens have 3. I think it looks like a really good year for us, we just have to hope the goal tending stays good.

Anonymous said...

Let's also hope that the Penguins decide to actually show up to games in the playoffs. I had hoped showings like tonight's against the Islanders were behind us.

Anonymous said...

Games like this will never be behind the Pens until they grow up and realize there are some games you have to win and play those games as intensly as you would any meaningful playoff game, no matter who it is. It's bad games like this more than good ones like the last game against NJ, that tells me they still aren't ready to go far into the playoffs. Maybe it's the coaching, maybe it's their mostly young players but it's definately something and problem that won't fix itself overnite.

On a side note, if Vannesa Day's pic is truthful at all, she's very attractive and I'm very smitten.

Caesar vs. The Bob said...

You are sort of proving my point. Yes, what I listed was circumstantial. However, you have to take all of that into account before declaring that Hossa "doesn't perform in the playoffs" simply by seeing he has 35 points in 55 playoff games (.636 ppg, compared with his regular season average of .927 ppg).

The point is, too many broadcasters look only to the stats before making declarations.

Anonymous said...

dude, it's ryan. that's some pretty terrific analysis. we've had lots of discussions about this kind of thing in football and hockey in the past and this just is another example. people seem to think "oh, he played for the sens and didn't produce". the sens have traditionally been playoff chokers as a team and his numbers seem to bear out that he was one of the best performers on an underachieving team. it seems like one year makes everyone forget in the current media climate. no one remember that the sens were generally ticketed for an annual first round playoff bounce because guys like spezza, alfreddsson, redden, and their revolving door goaltending situation collapsed. hossa's numbers might be down in the playoffs from the regular season (who's aren't?), but his numbers are still solid, especially given that the sens were never a great team with him there (or really until last year) and that the thrashers were an awful playoff team last year that completely backed into the playoffs. hossa has looked excellent since coming back from his knee injury and he'll be huge for the pens in the playoffs. mark it down.

Anonymous said...

by the way, why is everyone so down on the pens goaltending? i was watching nhl live and del greco (or whatever) said that he wasn't in love with the pens goaltending when talking about the chances of the eastern contenders. ty conklin leads the league in save percentage and fleury's save percentage is actually better than conks' since like...december? something like was in the post-gazette last week. fleury's coming off a 40 win season and has looked fantastic lately. besides that, what eastern playoff teams have goaltenders that can single handedly win playoff games? the devils and rangers? and that's it? the habs are relying on a rookie, the sens goalies are mediocre at best, the canes rely on a guy who has been good, but hardly great since winning the cup, boston has tim thomas (ok but not great), philly has biron (average), washington has huet but is he really going to win a game by himself? especially given how mediocre the rest of the squad is (no, not including ovechkin). it's the little things that bug me really.


Vanessa Day said...

First of all, yes... my pic is real, and thank you, anonymous! I actually changed it to a more "glamorous" one for my blog profile because my blog is for the boutique I own.

Second, to Caesar, yes, I do think the media (in general, not just in sports) has a problem with overgeneralizing before looking at the whole picture. So what if Hossa's stats are lower during the playoffs, there are so many other factors to games during the playoffs that can inhibit scoring.

I also think it's about chemistry as "ryan" brought up. Maybe Hossa didn't click with the Sens? I think with guys being shuffled around, they don't really get the chance to bond with their team (or maybe they have been there long enough, but just don't really click with their teammates). If I remember correctly, Hossa worked hard to get to Pittsburgh, actually stating something about wanting to be on a team that could win the cup.

I think this proves he is in for a much better season this playoff year because he actually wants to be in Pittsburgh, he obviously clicks with the other guys, and he's shown some spectacular moves thus far.

As for the goal tending, my personal opinion is that M.A.F. is prone to mental shutdown during games if he lets a goal in or gets discouraged. I think it may be Conklin who carries us through the playoffs if Fleury shows weakness. That's it.

Anonymous said...

i can see what you're saying about fleury vanessa and he's certainly been accused of that in the past. however, i think he was one of about 5 penguins that actually bothered to show up last year in the playoffs against ottawa (like hossa, this is a situation where his stats might not seem like he played well, but he was very good for most of the series, if you watched it).

also, i think it's worth noting fleury's numbers since thanksgiving.

since november 24th, he's 11-1 with two nondecisions (the game he got hurt against calgary and his first game back when he relieved conklin in boston). in the twelve games he's gotten decisions in, he has faced 315 shots and has allowed 15 goals for a ridiculous save percentage of .952 (which would be far and away the league's best %). his goals against average was above 2.01 in only one of those 12 games (the only loss). if i calculated it correctly, his GAA for that entire span comes out to about 1.31, which would also be by far the league's best. he's recorded 3 shutouts in that span and generally been brilliant.

anyway, that's my daily argument for why marc-andre fleury is going to be the guy to lead this team to the stanley cup (hopefully several times in the next 10-15 years).


Vanessa Day said...

Touché, Ryan. I actually adore Fleury, it's just that I worry about him. Maybe it's my female intuition or motherly instinct, but I always see warning signs of a freak out or possible mental block. I do realize that he is excellent, and his stats are excellent, I guess I just take more into account than stats.

Must be because I'm a girl.